It’s difficult to categorise Battle Royale as it’s not strictly horror (although it is definitely horrifying in content) but it’s definitely grisly enough to stay out of the mainstream and has a fairly substantial cult following; as a result it has made it’s way onto our website.
The story is easy to explain. After the collapse of social tolerance in Japan towards the end of last century the government enforce an extreme law to try to re-discipline its wayward youth. The law, shortened to Battle Royale sees a random school class placed on an island, with no hope of escape to play a deadly game to the death. The game basically involves them having to kill one another until only one remains.
The plot is nothing to complex, but before you think that the film is a simple excuse for slaughter be assured that there are so many metaphors and messages present throughout that you can seldom get board of watching nor can you avoid thinking as a result of what you are viewing. The film is structured in a relatively clever way. Each of the characters are introduced gradually, first by name and number only, but then as the story progresses (and normally when that character dies) we get a little snippet of their past, what shaped their personalities and their manner of which they played the game. This little feature is cleverly done so that each of the characters become part of the story but it in no way intrudes into the action and the pace is kept relatively swift throughout the duration.
I believe that the real beauty of the film comes from the intense violence which is frequent and strong throughout the film; the body counts high, although it is not particularly gory, but it is done in a very realistic way which really takes you back at times. Every now and then there is a spatter of dark humour and a few scenes of irony but most of the time I felt quite moved by the images I was seeing. Kids killing kids, friends committing suicide, naive girls begging for their lives, its hard not to be shocked the first time of viewing.
As I have said, the film has a high body count and most of the deaths are very bloody. Some sword/sickle deaths, plenty of gunshot blood-packs present some pretty gory suicides. The blood looks a little fake but it’s still pretty pleasing none the less.
Overall, Battle Royale is a film which is simple in premise but delivers so much more in context. Whilst some believe the work is genius as a raw critique of modern social structure, with each of the children representing ambitions and social standings of real people, I just enjoy it because of the intense violence which is played out on screen. It is really nice to see a film which is quite excessively violent which does not end up being silly. Battle Royale holds its integrity and gritty atmosphere together right to the end. I cannot recommend this film any higher, if you have not seen this film already see it now! (Before the undoubted remake), this is probably one of the best examples of Asian cinema to date.